Current Issue #488

Third Age: Respect for Elders Requires an Attitude Shift

Third Age: Respect for Elders Requires an Attitude Shift

Ageing research bodies in Australia – and worldwide – are increasingly concerned by elder abuse.

Their concern is a good thing. But they need to get their skates on if they don’t want to be caught writing papers, holding meetings and seeking community responses when the problem, which is horrific – gets away from them.

We’ve learnt a thing or two in my lifetime of the relationship between violence and lack of respect for women. We know that to stop the vicious discrimination against women, the danger to their lives and welfare, we have to enable them to raise their status, demand recognition of their worth, abolish the pay gaps, ban the discriminatory language and jokes, and ensure women have respect they deserve considering their contribution to society.

Now we need to apply what we have learned to that section of society 65 and over. To stop elder abuse, society must recognise the contribution of the old to the community, demand respect for them and stop the discrimination. We are so far from achieving this, I feel sick about it.

Every day I hear or read discriminatory remarks that it seems few people even notice. Young columnists speak about the old as though they were half dead. Should they be allowed to drive? Shouldn’t they give up their houses to the young? I won’t repeat the derogatory names for elders. I am sure the older members of the family are visualised as sitting in the corner watching any old TV and fiddling with their hearing aids. If this is so, then shame on the younger members of the family for not including the old, for not helping them with their hearing aids, for being such discriminatory dickheads.

It is now assumed on the flimsiest of evidence that everyone over 80 is on a downward slide into dementia. The families of old people often make their own diagnoses, which may be right, or may be cruelly wrong. There is, too, evidence overseas that dementia is on the wane, as older people take their own measures to prevent mental deterioration.

The present attitude means a concentration of services for the aged, which can result in sufferers from chronic pain, for example, being given lower priority. And where does it leave those who still feel mentally and physically capable, and want to be taken seriously, not only in a workforce that of course rejects them, but in their families? Being dumped by society is elder abuse.

Residential services for the old are overwhelmed with dementia cases, it is true. But we need to look at provision of adequate services for old people with a whole range of needs, including jobs.

I rage when I hear people say offhandedly that a parent wouldn’t know the first thing about using a computer. There is only one response I have: well teach them, you idiot.

But who’s listening to me? I am an oldie. An increasingly angry oldie. I raged the other day when I heard an otherwise sensible person on the ABC mention offhandedly, as though it were a given, “the haze of old age”.

Let him speak about his own haze. My old school friends and I ain’t in a haze of any kind. We are talking strongly about people like him that talk sweeping rubbish about old age being a haze. He’s as out of date as poor old Shakespeare was to become with his categorisation of the stages of life in 1600 or so.

I hope the new government, for a start, will end discriminatory testing of old people before they are allowed to keep on driving. Test young people, if you must; they have the most accidents and may I say it, more interesting drugs, in their systems. Test all or none.

At present oldies, with diminished self-esteem, go along with the discrimination. Never forget how much old people are brainwashed to think young people know best. Ho, ho, ho…

Of cases of physical cruelty to the aged who are very sick, I cannot bring myself to speak. Some people are cruel to little children. How much more likely are such people to be cruel to less appealing old people? Vigilance is required.

Talking of oldies getting respect and recognition in the work force, the terrific UK magazine for elders, The Oldie, scooped younger journalists in Britain by first exposing Jimmy Savile and his appalling sex crimes in 2012, when Savile was still alive.

Others, such as the BBC, knew, but dared not publish for years. “Only after their contributor Miles Goslett and The Oldie set the ball rolling did the rest of the media run the allegations long discussed in press circles.” In its March edition this year, The Oldie claims its “first”. Proudly.

Goslett has recently published a new book about the David Kelly affair: An Inconvenient Death: How the Establishment Covered up the David Kelly Affair. Goslett has won the Scoop of the Year award four times. I have no idea how old he is, but it took the magazine for and by oldies to back him on this one.

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